Wednesday, August 31, 2011

get to where God wants you Review of Craig Groeschel's "CHAZOWN

Craig Groeschel’s “Chazown” is a book about finding and getting to that place where God wants you to be so that He can best use you. Craig starts out with a great concept: get the vision of what God is calling you to do, and then do whatever it takes to get there. Don’t just follow the crowd; be a little weird if you have to. Figure out what you’re core values are and then make decisions based on those values. And be prepared to make mistakes, but realize that those mistakes don’t have to be fatal.
All good advice, but I wanted something a little deeper. The “You’re the Author” section at the end of each chapter was helpful, but just didn’t go quite far enough.
I really liked the personal examples, the transparency and humanness that Craig used to illustrate his various points.
Over all, this was not quite the book I was expecting. I’ve seen the book on the shelves; I liked the cover, I was tempted to pick it up, but for some reason never got around to buying it. I’ve read some other, newer, stuff by Craig Groeschel, and was hoping that this would be as good or better. It wasn’t.
I imagine those readers a decade or two younger than me, readers who may be new to this whole church thing would really like this book. Most of the things that Craig writes about are nothing new for people who have been around the church for a while. He does however present them in a different way than many ‘boomers’ are used to having them explained. It’s a way that seems to be appealing to younger generations.
Although I don’t see myself using this on a regular basis as a reference; I also wouldn’t hesitate to give a copy of this book to someone with questions and a desire to get to the next step,
3.5/5 stars
Multnomah provided me a copy of this book in exchange for my review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Whose Hell is Hell?

Apologist Bobby Conway tackles a popular writer’s interpretation of Hell in his book Hell, Rob Bell, and What Happens When People Die. And as he presents the case, the Bible wins. Conway uses a well-accepted and established technique for interpreting scripture: he turns to scripture.
To be fair I’ve not read Bell’s book Love Wins. I’ve heard about it, and heard of all the uproar, and wanted to see what the other voices were saying.
Conway introduces his book with the statement that he is not attacking Rob Bell; rather he is “defending orthodox Christianity.” He tempers that comment with the statement that Bell’s book is a threat because of Bell’s “massive influence as a pastor, author, and personality.” One of the things that I found especially pleasing about this book is that Conway is gracious enough to point out where Bell is on target.
Conway sets out to remind us what God, Jesus, and the Bible say about Hell, and points out where Bell differs. The bad news is that we all deserve hell; the good news is Jesus offers a way to escape that which we deserve. “Salvation is believing in Jesus. There is no formulaic prayer in the Bible”
And we’re reminded that regardless of Bell’s brazen question, about the possibility that God fails, why would we even want to imply that because someone goes to hell that God has failed? A quote from J. I. Packer puts it in perspective: “Hell appears as God's measure of respect for human choice.”
This is a tough debate to moderate. Based on my upbringing, my education, my belief and my faith, what Bell is credited with saying sounds like heresy. Conway, on the other hand puts things in the perspective that I am used to and comfortable with. Given the choices however, I think I’ll stick with my traditional scriptural view.
Love doesn’t win, God wins, Jesus wins and in the process there is a lot of love shown. But the choice is still yours. And as Packer and Conway point out, God respects that element of human choice.
4.5/5 stars

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

breaking free of the gerbil syndrome: a review of It's Your Kid Not a Gerbil

Kevin Leman has written the book which should turn parenting upside down, and in the process strengthen the family. The title, It’s Your Kid, Not a Gerbil says it all.
For years we’ve heard that we have to get our kids on the fast track, they have to be involved in sports and arts; they should have study time and develop good study habits. And that’s all good stuff, but there’s a limit. Leman reminds us that at some point we have to say no to the ‘good’ in favor of the ‘better’.
Gerbils get in the little wheel, expend a lot of energy going in circles, and end up going nowhere. All too often it seems like we want our kids to get on that wheel and run nonstop. But what’s the cost?. Yes, we want the kids to develop good study habits, social skills and everything else, but when the kids are pushed so that the parents can brag about the accomplishments - it’s time to step back.
Dr Leman points out that at some point parents need to step up and be parents. Spending time with our kids when they’re young is ultimately more important than having them be recruited to an Ivy League school before they’re out of junior high. Family time is more important to a child than all sorts of lessons, and most kids would rather have their parents love them for who they are and not just for what they do.
Leman writes with a blend of humor and wisdom that engages the reader on any number of levels. He points out some of the misguided attempts at parenting that we all make, and he offers some great techniques and skills that parents can learn.
One of the things that I really liked about this book is that I never felt put down for being a poor parent, but often felt encouraged that I am trying hard and there are ways that will make it easier for me to do even better at offering my child the best future possible.
You probably know somebody that needs to read this book.
5/5 stars

Friday, August 19, 2011

Muscular Faith - a review

“We are not born again by good works; we are born again for good works." Ben Patterson tells us about the difference in Muscular Faith: How to Strengthen Your Heart, Soul and Mind for the Only Challenge That Matters. He reminds us that the Apostle Paul says that the intent of grace is to make us God's masterpiece. Starting with the premise that we don’t do good works in order to be saved, we do good works because we are saved, Patterson takes us on a journey of what life looks like inside the kingdom.
The concept of “finishing well” as Paul wrote about in his epistles, is one that intrigues me. And with Paul’s life as a part of the background, the reader is allowed a glimpse of the ‘muscular faith’ that kingdom life involves. In other words, Christianity is not for wimps. It’s also not for people who think that as we have to do to be considered a good Christian is show up at church once in a while. Community is a part of the faith that God graces us with, and that He wants us to experience.
Accepting the call requires a conscious decision, the stakes are high but there definitely are obstacles. And this is not a short term mission trip. It requires commitment, and perseverance.
Especially helpful are the chapters found in PART 4: The Essentials. Prayer, Sabbath, joy, and a host of other things keep us on the narrow path that leads to Jesus.
A pleasant read, with lots of insight from an experienced pastor.
I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased opinion of the book

There’s a rumor going around…

I liked the book "Rumors of God: Experience the Kind of Faith You've Only Heard About". Darren Whitehead and Jon Tyson have written a fun and easy to read book which, by the way, goes a lot deeper than just fun and easy. Over and over I found myself backing up to see if I had ‘really just read that'.
Part of the reason that this book is such an enjoyable read is because we so rarely slow down long enough to really look at and evaluate what’s going on in our lives. “Rumors” catches us off guard and forces us to look back a little, to think about what’s going on around us and to reevaluate what we think, what we know, and what we think we know.
"Rumors of God" includes rumors of abundant life, generosity, love, grace, freedom, commitment, community, justice, hope and so much more. But here’s the kicker: it’s not just rumors - it’s fact, it’s real, it’s God's truth.
Using Scripture, along with examples drawn from real life, we get a chance to see what Jesus is calling us to do to usher in the Kingdom. Along the way they slaughter some sacred cows (where ever did we get the idea that worship was all about making us feel good? It’s supposed to be something we offer up to God).
This book may be an easy read, but accepting the reality of the kingdom life requires mush more than just skimming the surface. Don’t just listen to the rumors, dig a little deeper and discover the truth that God has in store for each of us.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What's the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? a review

If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Many people would like to say ‘yes’, to this question that Greg Laurie and others have asked, but there’s a slight problem: much of the evidence they have to present wouldn’t be compelling enough for a conviction.
Martin Thielen’s book What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? sets out to give us enough information to be able to do the things that will lead to a conviction. Granted there are some people who just don’t care, but there are many others who thanks to the movies or the press, and perhaps an occasional off-the-mark sermon, have the wrong idea of what’s involved in being a Christian, and living a Christian life style.
Thielen book consists of two sections; the first consist of “Ten Things Christians Don’t Need to Believe”. This are the things that we’ve learned over the years, and know in our hearts that are sound bible teaching, except for one small thing: they’re not biblical. In the section he talks about misconceptions concerning disease, doubt, evolution, homosexuality, social justice, the environment, women preachers and a number of other hot buttons. For the most part I agree with his assessments, but sometimes he pushes things just a little farther than I’m willing to go.
Section two is “Ten Things Christians Do Need to Believe.” This section is about Jesus: His identity, His priorities, His work, His resurrection, His vision, His legacy and His promise. In this section I tended to be more in agreement theologically speaking.
Overall I think Thielen has done a good job of pointing out some of the misconceptions of modern church-goers, and pointing out what the important things are when it comes to following Jesus.
Just Chapter 18 – “Jesus’ Legacy: Is the Church Still Relevant” makes the book worth reading.
4.5/5 stars
I received a galley copy of this book in exchange for a review.

digging in the wrong place.

Building projects require some preliminary work, and the other day my back yard got its share of colored paint so the contractor would know where to dig. (actually so he would know where not to dig.)He spent a lot of time with a shovel looking for electric or gas lines, but couldn't find them. The next day he had the yard painter come back to repaint. so he could dig some more. Turns out he would have spent a lot of time looking because the lines were painted in the wrong place.

It reminds me of that old(?) song: "Lookin' for Love in all the Wrong Places". You just can't find something when it isn't there. Doesn't matter that someone said it was there or might be there, that it used to be there, that it should be there, or that you want it to be there; if it's not there, it's not there.

And if you're looking in the wrong place, you'll probably find something, it just won't be what you thought you were looking for.

Or maybe it's like the treasure maps we used to have as kids, "X" might have marked a spot, but I never dug a big enough hole to find the buried treasure.

A lot of people treat prayer like that too. We say we're praying, but in actuality we're just going to God and telling Him what we want Him to do for us in a particular situation. We're drawing lines so we know where to dig for the answer. Then we sit back and wait, and when we don't get the answer that we told God would be an acceptable response, we decide that God wasn't listening or God doesn't answer prayers, or worse that God just doesn't care. Sometimes we've drawn the lines in the wrong place.


Sometimes we just need to get out of God's way, and let Him answer our prayers in the way that He thinks is best. The lines we draw, the "X" that we put on the map, the places we decide would be the best places to look just might not be right.

Learn to let God decide for you, and you might just be surprised.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Married, or just dating? Book review: Why Church Matters by Joshua harris

“Married, or just dating?”
I enjoyed Joshua Harris’ book when it was published several years ago under a different title: Stop Dating the Church. I enjoyed reading it again as Why Church Matters: Discovering Your Place in the Family of God.
Harris invites his readers to look at their relationships with the church in the context of a marriage. Are you married to the church, or do you try to put the church into the category of ‘friends with benefits”?
The author encourages us to become passionate about our relationship with the church, to see it more than something we do on Sunday morning, whether we want to or not. God's plan for the church is something exciting, but unless we fully engage, we miss out on all that it has to offer. It’s the age old dilemma of those who want to claim Jesus as Savior, but refuse to acknowledge Him as LORD. We want to pick and choose, to take the parts that make us feel good, and leave the rest.
Christ calls the church His bride, and in a very real sense when we think of marriage, think of this beautiful person with whom we want to spend the rest of our life, we think in terms of passion, of love, of commitment. Unless there were some ulterior motives, we wouldn’t go into a marriage relationship with the idea that once you get married you’ll spend one hour a week together, and during the time you’ll be bored silly. Yet people want to sign up to be part of the church, the bride of Christ, and go into the relationship with that attitude…
As Christians we have been given access to the most exciting news the world has ever known, it’s up to us to joyfully proclaim that news. Harris in this engaging book offers some suggestions to help us find or reclaim that passion that should be part of our relationship with the Christ and the Church. He invites us to take that next step, to make the commitment, to become as passionate about the church as we are about our hobbies.
There’s a stark warning for church leadership too, if your local church isn’t biblical, if it’s nothing to get passionate about, then people who want to get passionately involved might just move on.
Wondering what’s missing on Sunday morning? This book is for you!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

it's a beautiful day

I haven't been here lately, i've been reviewing lots of books and articles, but they were submitted for a grade, and weren't the books that I've been getting from publishers. The last paper for this class was submitted on Friday... now a break until October.

we had a baptism at church this morning and that's always fun, and participated in a funeral this afternoon. Also fun, but in a totally different way.

actually picked a couple of cucumbers today, along with some tomatos, squash, eggplant, and peppers. Fresh veggies taste so much better than store-bought ones.
Get to mow the lawn this evening (it's starting to cool down) and maybe do some baking.
...then i can start reading for pleasure again. I miss it-- and my kindle is full of books waiting to be read and reviewed.

Nolan starts school tomorrow. My baby is in 9th grade - hard to believe it, but he's almost 15.

Yes, it's a beautiful day. Hope you're enjoying it!